Here is a list of "innovations" that the XFL debuted on their historic opening night.
- "Dash for the ball" instead of a coin toss
The ball is placed on the center spot and a player from each team lines up and they race to grab the ball. Whoever gets it, gets to choose whether to kickoff or receive. An interesting idea, but I don't think it's something that is going to last. How many coaches will complain to the commissioner about losing their fastest player to injury BEFORE the opening kickoff?
- Over zealous cheerleaders
Have you ever seen the movie "BASEketball"? That's what the cheerleaders look like. I'm sorry to say, but strippers (sorry, exotic dancers) as cheerleaders is a bad idea. How can you possibly gain mainstream acceptance (and therefore ratings) when you present such a ridiculous image?
- Overhead television camera
They had a camera suspended over the field of play by a wire, and it could rotate to follow the play. An excellent idea that is borrowed from video games. It's a camera angle that gives the viewer a better idea of the developing play.
- TV cameras on the field during the play
Two cameramen, decked out in hockey helmets and flak jackets were stationed on the field to capture the action up close. As well, they could run into the huddle and listen in to the discussion. An interesting idea, but what happens if there is a sudden change in direction in the play and the person wielding the camera interferes with the play? As long as they don't disrupt the game, it's a good idea.
- Inexperienced announcers
Oh boy. Hiring ex-wrestlers and wrestling announcers to broadcast your games is a baaaaad idea. They were shouting at the wrong times, they never disected a play to explain why it happened the way it did, and they were having too much fun making double entendres and jokes. It's like watching football with your annoying friend who talks all the time.
- No kicking for extra points
Instead of a point-after kick, to earn the extra point you have to run or pass the ball into the endzone, like the NFL's (and CFL and college football) two-point conversion. That's a good change. The PAT was always the dullest part of the game. An extra bonus is that the clock is still running for this play, and if the defense should intercept the ball or recover a fumble and run the ball back to the offense's endzone, they get the extra point instead. I wonder if they should take this another step further, and implement the idea that if the team wants to go for a two point play, they have to get the ball into the endzone from the 25 yard line.
- No fair catches on punts, and the ball is live after 25 yards
If the ball is punted more than 25 yards, and touches the ground/bounces, it is a live ball for EVERYONE on the field. However, if the punt returner is stationed under the ball, the kicking team has to give him a 5 yard zone to catch it (like the CFL). The moment he catches the ball, it's fair game and he can get tackled immediately. Another good idea, as it makes the punter more valuable to a team, and the action off a punt suddenly becomes more exciting.
- Interviews with players on the sidelines right after the play
Silly idea. I don't know how many times we saw a player gasping for breath while trying to be interviewed. More often than not, the interview ended up sounding garbled and was completely useless.
- Microphones on the sidelines/dressing room
It is always interesting to hear what the play call is from the coach, and to hear the quarterback make the call on the line. But how long before the games have to use a 5-second delay so the censors can bleep out the swear words when something goes wrong?
- Nicknames and catchphrases on the jerseys
Instead of just the player's name on the back of the jersey, we saw nicknames ("B.Mack") and phrases ( "He Hate Me") as well. An interesting idea, but there must be some sort of rule about exactly what you can put on the back. Can someone promote a web site ("msn.com")? How about politcal statements ("Bush sux")?
Update: Feb 5 2000
It seems that the XFL already uses a 5-second delay for the censors to do their work.
Update: Feb 12 2000
During the first week, a player dislocated his shoulder during the "dash for the ball", and was out for the season without having actually played a single second of football for his team this year.